Can this distortion/fuzz chameleon deliver the larger-than-life sounds of Cream-era Clapton?
The influence of Eric Clapton’s Disraeli Gears-era tones spans generations. Weeping, soaring, and oh-so emotive, those sounds combine fluid B.B. and Albert King phrasing with raging SG, Marshall, Fuzz Face, and Cry Baby wah. Getting Clapton’s tones without that gear isn’t easy, and playing loud tends to be an essential part of the formula. Most gearheads would tell you to get a good fuzz and a stack, but the Juliet Collective believes they have another answer: a distortion called the Orangecream, which uses two parallel clipping stages—a hard-clipping fuzz section and a softer distortion stage—to approximate Clapton’s Fuzz Face-and-Marshall blend.A Steel Keg
The Orangecream’s cylindrical enclosure evokes the flying-saucer-shaped Fuzz Face, a welcome throwback to the days when effects pedals didn’t all have the same rectangular shape. The footprint doesn’t differ much from that of the Dunlop’s recent Fuzz Face Mini, though the pedal is taller. You can power it with a 9V battery or a standard power supply, though you need a 3/32" allen wrench to open the enclosure and replace batteries. Inside, a PC board housing 2N2222 transistors is mounted to the enclosure.
Two knobs control the output. The left-hand one adjusts the crunch range, with higher settings tightening the bottom end and yielding a spikier attack. The right-hand knob smoothes the output when turned clockwise while acting as a master volume.Clapton in a Can?
If you really want Clapton’s Cream tones, you’ve got to go with humbuckers, so I auditioned the Orangecream with a Les Paul. In front of a ’60s Fender Bassman (with the Orangecream’s crunch knob nearly maxed and sustain at about 4 o’clock), the attack is quick and precise, with a top-end fizz that complements a Les Paul’s naturally bassy character. Rolling back the crunch emphasizes the low-end—a great setting for rhythm, though lead dynamics could become a bit lost in a loud band.
Switching to an Orange Rockerverb 50 MKII amp, I paired the Orangecream with a selection of Fender single-coils. Dirty amp settings aren’t the best match in this situation—a dirty Orangecream setting through a dirty amp tends to squash the interesting overtones that the Orangecream delivers in spades. But a mildly overdriven amp handles the Orangecream well, and single-coils let me ride the pedal’s crunch harder without sacrificing amp gain or obscuring the low end. High crunch and volume settings on the Orangecream yield aggressive, filthy tones reminiscent of a germanium Fuzz Face with the fuzz and volume controls wide-open. It’s here that the Clapton associations start to make sense. Vintage Gilmour fans will also dig these tones, especially with some added delay.
My last test amp was with a VHT Special 12/20 RT. This open-back combo setup didn’t reveal any unexpected nuances, though it did magnify a one concern some players may have with this pedal: the fact that even maxed out, levels are only marginally louder than unity gain. (In this regard, the Orangecream resembles the original fuzzes that inspired it.) You might need to add an additional boost pedal to get your guitar way out front for a big lead.The Verdict
The Orangecream may not be a vintage circuit (at least not 1967-style vintage), but its parallel clipping stages deliver the muscular and vocal qualities of the classic ’60s Marshall-fuzz-and-humbuckers recipe with surprising effectiveness. It responds best through a clean amp with ample headroom, but works equally well with humbuckers and single-coils. Its ability to toe the line between fuzz and distortion yields unique sonic results that should intrigue many fuzz and distortion freaks.
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